What would you say if we told you that both you and/or your service member could be reimbursed hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars from your credit card company, just by asking them for it? I know what you’re probably thinking: “Yea Right…”
But we are here to tell you that you absolutely CAN! It’s all thanks to the Service Member Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the SCRA, it’s a law that is set to protect service members (and by extension their spouses in some cases) from certain legal and financial burdens that occur due to active duty service. This law also includes the reserve components as well as National Guard members who are on active duty orders.
One of the most beneficial and widely used provisions of the SCRA is the 6% cap on interest rates for service members and their spouses on any loan, mortgage, or credit card you may have had before entering active duty. Unfortunately, the interest cap does not apply to any debt that is incurred after entering active duty.
However, many banks and lenders have decided to expand their benefits to go above and beyond the requirements of the SCRA; many of them are including debt that was incurred even after entering active duty service. Not only that, but a few creditors will even retroactively reimburse you for the amount of money you have paid toward interest. That’s right, they will either send you a check or apply it against any current balance you have on your card!
While the majority of these benefits (to include waiver of annual fees) are geared towards our active duty service members, there are a few lenders who have expanded benefits even further to include military spouses.
To be clear, even if your service member is not a joint account holder, you are still considered eligible for retroactive reimbursement of any interest paid over at least 6% with the following creditors.
Capital One’s website states the following regarding their expanded SCRA benefits:
“The SCRA provides an interest rate of no more than 6% on all eligible loans and credit products. However, Capital One goes above and beyond the federal statute by providing an interest rate of no more than 4% on eligible loans both owned and serviced by Capital One. Also, no fees are assessed except for bona-fide insurance.”
If your service member has an account, they will be able to apply using Capital One’s online form. My husband did this a few months ago and he just received a check for over $800! He hasn’t even used the card in years!
If you’re a military spouse interested in applying for Capital One’s SCRA benefits, visit their SCRA FAQ section to learn more about the process. You and your service member have up to 1 year after he/she separates from active duty service to take advantage of these benefits.
Discover is another company that has extended their benefits far beyond the requirements of the SCRA. Their site states:
“Service members and their spouses/domestic partners have earned the following Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) benefits for the period of active duty service:
- 6% or less annual percentage rate (APR) on Discover card purchases and cash advances
- No late fees
Active duty servicemembers and their spouses/domestic partners are eligible for SCRA benefits on joint accounts. Discover extends this benefit to separate accounts on which the service member is not obligated. This coverage lasts as long as the service member is on active duty—and is even applied retroactively to the active duty start date. Once activated, your SCRA benefits may automatically extend to other Discover products, such as personal loans, home equity, home loans and student loans.”
You will have to log in to your Discover account online to apply for their expanded SCRA benefits and will have up to 180 days after separation from service to take advantage of these benefits.
Synchrony has taken over what used to be GE Capital. These would most likely be some of the ‘store cards’ you may have, (i.e. Amazon, Walmart, etc). Whether you have a current account with Synchrony, or had a previous accounts with GE Capital, they will review it and send retroactively reimburse you by lowering the interest rates to 6% and waiving all fees…even closed accounts!
To apply: Call 1-800-232-6954 to begin the process of requesting your benefits.
These are just a few examples of SCRA expansions, and the only ones (that we are aware of) who do not require a joint account. However, there are many creditors and companies who appear to go above and beyond the requirements of the SCRA and their benefits can vary. Check out these additional lenders that will expand SCRA benefits to service member only and jointly-held accounts:
- American Express
American Express will waive all fees related to annual membership, over limit, late payments, returned payments, and statement copies for active duty military service personnel. For example, the AMEX Platinum card has a $450 fee associated with the privilege of being an account holder, but they will waive this fee completely under their expanded SCRA benefits.
To apply: Go online or call 1-800-253-1720 to submit a request.
- Citi Bank
Citi will waive all fees and reduce your interest rate to 0% for all Citi card accounts opened prior to active duty service.
To apply: Call Citi at 1-877-804-1082 or go to their website to learn more.
- Bank of America
Bank of America will waive all fees and lower interest to 6% on all balances before and during active duty. They will also do this for up to 180 days after military separation.
To apply: Go online to learn more about requesting benefits.
Barclaycard waives all fees and will even lower your interest rate to 0% for balances accrued both before and after entering active duty!
To apply: Call 1-866-918-5212 to request these benefits.
Chase will waive all fees, lower your interest rate to 4%, and you can even use this benefit for one year after military separation. They will also refund all interest and fees incurred during deployment if you have any of their military specific products.
To apply: Log into your account online and go to ‘Secure Message Center.’ When you send a new message, make sure the inquiry says “Military Service Members Civil Relief,” and complete the process from there. You may also speak to one of their military customer service specialists by calling 1-877-469-0110.
USAA offers to decrease your interest rates to as low as 4% for up to 12 months following a PCS and up to 15 months during deployments. I totally wish I would have known this when we moved a year and a half ago!
Many people feel that military and veteran specific banks like USAA or Navy Federal don’t go as ‘above and beyond’ as some of the other lenders that have expanded their SCRA benefits. BUT, we have to remember that it is BECAUSE these banks cater exclusively to our demographic that they wouldn’t be able to expand it as greatly without losing out a lot. Since other banks and lenders aren’t military specific, it is much easier to offer these SCRA benefits since we aren’t their only customers.
So come on! What are you waiting for? If you have a joint account with your service member or just want them to get the ball rolling, we encourage you to have them contact all of their creditors and/or explore their websites to see just how they go above and beyond for the military community. Take advantage of the benefits that these companies offer in order to appreciate our service members and their families.
Have you or your military member experienced any of these expansions? We would love to hear about them!